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State of Iowa v. William Baker

February 27, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
WILLIAM BAKER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clayton County, John J. Bauercamper, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Vaitheswaran, P.J.

A defendant contends that the district court did not obtain a valid waiver of his right to counsel before allowing him to represent himself in a criminal trial. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

We must decide whether the district court obtained a valid waiver of a defendant's right to counsel before allowing him to represent himself in a criminal trial.

I. Background Proceedings

The State charged William Baker with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, first offense. Baker advised the district court that he wished to represent himself. The court engaged in a detailed colloquy to ensure that Baker understood the ramifications of self-representation. At the conclusion of the colloquy, Baker changed his mind and elected to proceed with counsel. After the jury was convened, Baker requested a postponement. The court declared a mistrial, and the case was rescheduled for a bench trial.

Before the rescheduled trial date, Baker again stated that he wished to represent himself. The court engaged in an abbreviated colloquy about the consequences of self-representation. Baker insisted on proceeding without an attorney, and the court went forward with trial. The court found Baker guilty as charged and imposed sentence. This appeal followed.

II. Analysis

A defendant who is entitled to counsel and wishes to proceed without an attorney must "knowingly and intelligently" waive the right to counsel. See U.S. Const. amend. VI; Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 835 (1975). To that end, a court is obligated to engage in a colloquy with the defendant to ensure awareness "of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation." Faretta, 422 U.S. at 835; accord State v. Cooley, 608 N.W.2d 9, 16 (Iowa 2000) ("The purpose of a colloquy is to provide fair notice of the obstacles inherent in self-representation before an accused embarks on so perilous an endeavor."). "The degree of inquiry which is required in order to assure a valid waiver of the sixth amendment right to counsel varies with the nature of the offense and the ability of the accused to understand the process." State v. Hindman, 441 N.W.2d 770, 772 (Iowa 1989).

On our de novo review of this constitutional issue, we are satisfied that the court's colloquy met this standard. See Cooley, 608 N.W.2d at 13 (setting forth the standard of review). Before a mistrial was declared, the court engaged in the following discussion with Baker:

THE COURT: Before the court can allow you to-to represent yourself there are several things that I need to explain to you to make sure that you understand. First of all, you have a right to be represented by an attorney. If you can't afford one, one will be appointed to represent you at state expense. When you're represented by an attorney, you have someone who's received education in how to proceed in the-in a trial, who has had numbers of years of experience in trying jury cases. As you've seen he was able to perform voir dire and select a jury in this case. If you ask to represent yourself, you will not have the benefit of that experience and that training, but you will be left to represent yourself with the training that you have or the experience that you have. The court is not aware of what experience you have in the courtroom, what experience you have with the jury, what experience you have with the rules of evidence and how they apply in certain cases. In particular I would point out that you attempted to waive a jury after the jury had been selected which you are not as a matter of right allowed to do by the rules. I don't know if you were aware of that.

THE DEFENDANT: I was not.

THE COURT: And those are the types of matters that if you decide to proceed without an attorney, you will be left without that knowledge, and you'll be trying this case without that knowledge. You will be left facing the charges in this case which are at this time a serious misdemeanor. They carry a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail. There is a minimum jail sentence of forty-eight hours. There is a fine of- THE DEFENDANT: $1250 minimum.

THE COURT: $1250 plus there would be a thirty-five percent surcharge that would be added to that offense. There is a $10 D.A.R.E. fee that would be added to that offense, and if your license had not otherwise been suspended, you would also have an additional driver's license suspension.

You would not-this attorney has experience in examination of witnesses and cross-examination of witnesses. Again, I don't know what experience you would have in that regard, but you would not-you would not have the benefit of this attorney and his experience and training in the examination and cross-examination of witnesses.

There may be certain objections which you may have available to you during the course of the trial. This attorney is well versed and has had experience and training in the rules of evidence and could make those objections. If you proceed without an attorney, you're limited to whatever experience and training you have in that regard.

Do you understand, first of all, the consequences of the maximum and minimum penalties that you're facing in this case?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Do you understand the limitation that you may be placing upon yourself by not having a-a trained and experienced ...


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